Become a Spreadsheet Maniac: Log Everything at Your Child’s School!
Four years ago, the Michigan Court of Appeals heard an interesting case in which a father gained custody of his child by demonstrating the stability of his household and the level of commitment to the child’s educational activities. In the case ofPhillips vs. Shand, the Court noted that the father, his new wife, and the child’s teachers maintained a running log about the child which they passed back and forth amongst themselves, chronicling observations and making notes about the child’s progress. This interesting case illustrates the importance of maintaining a running record of all school activities in which the parents participate.
Whether you are a custodial parent or a non-custodial parent, you should get into the habit of maintaining a record of all school events in which the child participates, and which are attended (by either or both parents). These days, such records can be maintained easily on Excel spreadsheets, calendar programs and other software platforms. If you’re not computer savvy, you should maintain such records in a dedicated date book (such a date-minder or month-at-a-glance book). In maintaining records be sure to include the following:
- All parent-teacher organization meetings attended (PTAs, PTOs, etc.)
- All private parent-teacher meetings held
- All school sports events, tournaments and other competitions attended.
- All school concerts or theatrical performances attended.
- All awards ceremonies attended.
- All disciplinary meetings with administrators or special meetings with school counselors attended.
- All field trips or chaperone activities.
Each entry logged into your records should identify the date of the event, the nature of the event, who was present, what was discussed (or what occurred), and what actions, if any, the parent took in response to it. For example, a parent who attends a meeting with a teacher who indicates that the child has been falling behind in math may wish to establish a follow-up procedure to track the child’s progress in school while arranging a few private meetings with a math tutor at the family home. This hands-on approach to the child’s academic performance should then be recorded in the parent’s logbook as the response to a parent-teacher meeting. All of these steps will assist parents in re-constructing their level of parental involvement if and when it comes time to fight over custody and visitation rights.